Taking a look at the first half and reflecting on the second
A game and derby. The best of the best gather together during this one time in the year to show the rest of us common folk how amazing the game of baseball really is. With the midsummer classic nearly upon us, the Atlanta Braves have been on fire in the first half and have had more momentum before the All-Star break than they have in years past. The “rebuild” seems to have paid off and Braves country is pumped for the All-Star game this year. Now, the last two week’s series with the Yankees, Brewers, and Diamondbacks weren’t the greatest moments in this first half for the Braves, but they have won 52 games before the All-Star break. Breaking 50 games hasn’t happened since 2014.
Number of wins before the All-Star break in the last 5 years:
With guys like Ozzie Albies breaking records left and right in the organization and phenomenal pitching from guys like Mike Foltynewicz and Julio Teheran, the Braves are doing quite all right for this time of the year. It’s evident by the All-Star voting this year that Braves country has come out in full force to support its team and why not? this team is playing better than it has in a very long time! Four All-Stars! Four! Freddie Freeman, Ozzie Albies, Folty, and Nick Markakis. The most All-Stars since 2012 AND Freddie is in the Home Run Derby, what a year to be a Braves fan! Everyone is playing their part and contributing all around. For the last 3 years, the Braves have only had one All-Star per year in the last 3 years.
Despite so much talk at the beginning of the season and even now, I don’t think the Braves need to look any further for a third baseman. Johan Camargo has been doing fairly well at the plate and defensively as well. He has proven that he deserves to be the everyday third baseman. There has been so much talk about bringing in Manny Machado, but I don’t think the Braves need him. Camargo has hit 9 home runs in the first half of the season, he has 39 RBIs and a .247 / .346 / .423. He has a .875 fielding percentage. That’s not bad. If the Braves were to go out in and get someone before the trade deadline, it should be a pitcher.
Additionally, the team may be lacking in the bullpen, but regardless of that they still seem to muddle through and are playing some overall good baseball. They have been in first place in the NL East for nearly this entire first half. So the question becomes can the Braves keep up their winning momentum after the All-Star break?
There are two reasons why I think the Braves momentum will continue to be good even after the All-Star break.
1) The support of the fans is what will keep this team going. I mean just look at how many guys are in the going to All-Star game this year. Just having that extra boost of energy going into the second part of the season is going to be tremendous for the Braves to be able to make a push for the playoffs. It truly does mean something to these guys to know that they have people there rooting for them.
For example, my husband and I recently got to meet Max Fried. Awesome guy! And we got to talk to him for a bit. We mentioned that we were in Wrigley last year to see his MLB debut. He seemed kind of shocked that someone mentioned it to him. He laughed and said “Really? No way? That’s awesome!”
After the Braves had a not-so-great year last year, he seemed under the impression that no one was rooting for him, but he was humbled and grateful that someone cared. The fans do mean something to these guys. It means a lot that we stuck around through the rebuild to see it pay off and they appreciate it. Suntrust Park has been filled for each game and that love and support truly puts them in the “mood” to win for people that care.
2) Finally, more important than the mental game is the ability to continue what they are doing now (minus the past two weeks) and improve on what they are lacking. Now, I know that is the biggest cliché in the world and probably easier said than done. If the Braves can continue to make late inning pushes and keep up the run support for the starters, they might have a shot. Do I think the Braves have a shot at the playoffs this year, hmm…yes, but I don’t think they will make it very far.
Reason being, they don’t have a powerhouse pitcher like Justin Verlander or Luis Severino to carry the team through. Pitching has always been a strong spot with me and so I think the Braves should do what the Astros did last year. Trade or buy a phenomenal pitcher and bring him in to lead them into the playoffs like the Astros did with Verlander. Without someone like this, they will struggle. Yeah that might mean giving up a few prospects, but if the Braves want to push for the playoffs, then they need help; they need a leader.
The mix of veterans and young guys have worked very well this year for the Braves, but ultimately this IS a young team. Defensively the Braves are set, starting pitching and the bullpen still need work, so we will have to see what happens around the trade deadline. I pray that the last two weeks of play are not a foreshadowing for what is to come in the second half of the season. If the Braves can get back into the groove they have had for most of the first half they will go far, just not fair enough to win it all.
With every prayer, every shout that woke up your neighbors, and every excited tweet, the Braves have had an amazing first half. The team will continue to get better with these guys over the next few years as they gain more experience. If they don’t make it to the playoffs this season, that just tells me that this year was a good dry-run for next year. Regardless of what the Braves do or don’t do, I am happy to see so many Braves represented this year in the All-Star festivities.